Monday, October 6, 2008

saigon 101

I was in Saigon to buy a birthday gift for my wife, and going around Vietnam's dynamic business heartland gave me a brand new perspective of how lucky I am to be living in this part of the universe - Southeast Asia - where a bus ride for six hours can take you to another world. It has been almost three years since I have last been here, and the changes you see around is utterly remarkable.

First and foremost, Saigon is not known as Saigon anymore - it has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City since the country was reunited in the late 1960's. But for a hopelessly romantic travel nomad such as I am, it will always be poetically-correct named as Saigon.


I roamed its streets again and was taken aback with an overflowing sense of nostalgia, from the vestiges of its French colonial past, to the American War, even to my personal connection to its history...

The gothic-spired Notre Dame Cathedral is a significant reminder that despite the country's solid stance on communism, it is still largely deeply rooted in Catholic faith - a gift of the west via France.


The Reunification Palace used to house South Vietnam's government before the Fall of Saigon. Now, it seems to be haunted by ghosts of the past.


The park facing the Opera House is also an outdoor art gallery - housing exhibitions of images and visions from around the country.


The iconic Opera House featured the Vietnamese Army Band outside when I came to Louis Vuitton to buy my wife's bag. I had a live music background while at the LV store in Opera View which conveniently faces the Opera House (hence the name). It was like they knew I'll be there to shop for love.


Coffee culture, a remnant of France's heritage in Vietnam is everywhere... Trung Nguyen Coffee is considered king.


The Vespa is also king of the road in Saigon...


The humble Cyclo comes in close second...


The Vietnamese are extremely skin-conscious people. I know the Chinese are notorious with their skin care but they cannot compete with the Vietnamese obsession in protecting their skin from going tan.


It's streets are littered with women (and even men!) who cover themselves from head to toe to escape the scorching heat, but not the overflowing perspiration!


And like an apple lost somewhere between a haystack and a peach tree, love exists in Saigon in unexpected corners... from the lovers French-kissing on a tree by the park or through a newlywed couple starting happily ever after outside of Gucci. Yes, love will always be in fashion anywhere you find it...

25 comments:

Borneo Falcon said...

The buildings impress me. I do plan to visit there one day. I even bought a travel book about the country last year

jericho said...

kaines. can you give a workshop on photography next time you're here? hehe

the spool artist said...

@borneo falcon: you should! now is a great time to visit vietnam... and when you're there, you can visit us here in cambodia as well!

@jericho: di naman ganun... dinadaan ko lang sa editing! hehehe. kayo na lang ni kiks magbakasyon dito sa cambodia para sa workshop... lol.

fuchsiaboy said...

one of these days il be the view of the opera view in front of LV. hihihi!

eunice said...

Really nice photos! I went HCMC in May and I must say the traffic there amazed me! LOL

kouji | haiku said...

fascinating images. does feel like a different world over there.

Kiks said...

beautiful!

the spool artist said...

@fuchsiaboy: i hope with still your clothes on! lol.

@eunice: oh, yes, the saigon traffic deserves a blog of it own... it's a completely different beast!

@kouji/haiku: it is a totally different world anyone would love to get lost on!

@kiks: aba, na-resurrect ka yata after a long time! how's the manila holiday?

Jake Tornado said...

Kahanga-hanga ang shots!

Grabe, next year talaga ifo-force ko buong family ko na magbakasyon sa Saigon. Though Doc M and I have been aching to visit the famed Angkor Wat!

Wohooo! Matinding kayod ito. Hehehe!

Jake Tornado said...

By the way, kelan ka ba mag-exhibit dito sa Manila?

Tapos i-tag price mo naman ang masterpieces mo at a friendlier and kababayan prices! Hehehe! (wink-wink!)

:p

the spool artist said...

@jake: naku, you can travel on the cheap from vietnam to cambodia... phnom penh is only 6 hrs lang by bus from the angkor wat side and from saigon! kayo pa ni doc M...you guys can afford travel-by-the-luxe bigtime.

siyempre, may special price po yung artworks ko para sa ating mga kababayan... basta may Laking National card ka ha! lol

gillboard said...

One of these days, Vietnam naman ang bibisitahin ko... i like the pics, specially the one with the running bride and groom...

wanderingcommuter said...

the pictures made me love vietnam more... thanks a lot.

hey, no worries!

jan celiz-magtoto said...

hey! a bit sensitive topic we have here. i hope you can still participate. here's our coffee break this week http://labskiddies.blogspot.com/2008/10/coffee-break-ver-139.html

i am nobe. said...

nice couple photo. i wish they took pictures like that on my wedding. :)

love,
nobe

http://www.deariago.blogspot.com
http://www.nobe112681.blogspot.com

the donG said...

stunning shot of the church!

Gibo. said...

ah vietnam....this is in my list to visit for a long time, never had a chance :-)

nice pics as usual!

UTITS CARISMECAK said...

I smiled when I saw that photo of a lady holding a braly... d2 kasi pagtatawanan ka kung may payong ka pag sunny.. laging biktima nyan yung mga pinay na bagong dating. oh well, iba naman cguro kasi ang init jan.

anw, ganda nung last foto. parang commercial.

the spool artist said...

@gillboard: thanks... yes you should take the chance to visit vietnam soon... fares are cheap and the city is bustling more than ever.

@wandering commuter: what;s there not to love about vietnam? it's an amazing country!

@jan celiz: thanks! will try to drop by your blog!

@i am nobe: try that on your next wedding anniversary!

@the dong: thanks!the church in itself is a spectacular peice of architecture!

@gibo: sayang... may direct flights naman from malaysia to saigon or hanoi... and cebu pacific has direct flights na rin from manila! you should visit it while it's still on the hotlist!

@kris jasper: at balit ka nagbago ng pangalan mo??? hehehe. yup, i'm sure the birmingham sun is not as scorching as saigon's!

chezza said...

I luuurve the orange vespa! So cool!

the spool artist said...

I am a big Vespa fan as well! THe orange one is really a big stand out on the streets, that's why when I saw it, I though that I had to take a pic of it

salingPUSA said...

I* also get the feeling that Saigon sounds better and it feels better. Vietnam is really a country of Charm and it's interesting to note that they are doing well in taking care of their cultural landmarks. It still is a mysterious country for me and I am sure for most Filipinos but it's that feeling you get for not knowing which want's you to go there.....


you really are lucky to be in continental Southeast Asia. Having said that, I now feel more and more that the Philippines is indeed geographically isolated from the rest of the herd.....

the spool artist said...

anton, yup, our location is indeed sometimes a bad thing. normally, tourists from thailand can easily reach cambodia, vietnam, laos, and burma by different options - from train, plane, boat, bus, and even by car. the same is true with singapore where malaysia and indonesia are a short breath away. when you live in brunei, malaysia (the sabah part) and indonesia are also a matter of driving to the border minutes away...

it's a sad plight being separated from the rest of our southeast asian brothers!

REDLAN said...

spectacular shots! at least indi lang nature photography ang makita ko online. fashion and people photography is cool too pala. keep it up!

the spool artist said...

thanks red lan! you have an interseting art blog as well! i'm adding you to my blogroll!